Forensic investigators are interviewing the family of a missing 11-year-old Menifee boy after searching an area near their home for possible human remains.
Authorities, though, declined to confirm a KABC report that investigators had unearthed human remains while searching the property.
After days of futile searches across the brushy landscape near the youth's home, authorities on Wednesday halted their efforts and disclosed that they had found "possible human remains" near the home.
The grim discovery came as investigators served a search warrant to comb the house of Terry Dewayne Smith, the autistic boy who has been missing since Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Many in the small town had joined the search and by Wednesday some seemed emotionally spent.
"He was a very good kid, very nice and sweet. Never did anything wrong," said Dallal Harb, owner of the Menifee Market, which had become an impromptu staging area for searchers.
"I'm completely blank," she said. "It just feels like a total dream. I just want to wake up from this dream."
About 11 a.m., as rumors began to spread among the volunteers that Terry's body had possibly been found, dozens of volunteers arranged themselves in a circle, bowed their heads and said a prayer.
"We will find a way to remember him in our hearts," said Jenny Smith, who taught Smith for part of the day when he was in fourth grade.
Kathy Jablecki and her daughter Stacy said they drove out to surrounding cities to put up missing posters because they wanted as many people as possible to know about the boy.
They cried when they learned that a body might have been found.
"I'm in shock. I'm sad," said Stacy Jablecki, 19. "I feel we still have hope that he is still here."
Scott Mann, the first elected mayor of Menifee, said he was surprised at the initial “outpouring of love and support” that community members and those in surrounding towns showed when the boy was first reported missing.
Even if foul play is determined to be the cause of the boy’s disappearance, he said community efforts toward the search were not in vain.
“Everyone can sleep at night knowing they did their part in a big, big way,” said Mann, a retired naval officer who has lived in Menifee since 1989.
“This has been a test of the strength of the fabric of this community,” Mann said.
Man plows car through gate at Bob Hope Airport
Man guilty of posing as officer, seeking sex with victim's wife
Redlands teacher who bore child pleads not guilty to abusing 3 boys